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System design engineers are in short supply and difficult to train. On-the-job training is the principal method used today, and the universities that seek to train system engineers make use of cooperative arrangements with industry to provide such experience. This paper suggests that training emphasis incorrectly has been placed on skills that are useful in system design work, rather than on the development of certain valuable qualities (talents or personality traits). On-the-job training is often pursued without due recognition of the importance of these qualities, and academic training today seems more attuned to the teaching of skills. It is hoped that discussion of these factors will help stimulate educators and engineering managers to search for ways to shorten the long training cycle.